At least four dead and dozens injured in the collapse of bleachers in Colombia

Aerial view of the collapsed bleachers in the bullring in Espinal, Colombia, on June 26, 2022.

At least four people died and around 30 were seriously injured in the collapse of the stands of an arena on Sunday, June 26, in Espinal – a Colombian city of some 78,000 inhabitants located 150 kilometers southwest of Bogota – , local authorities said. “There are four people dead at the moment. Two women, an adult man and a minor”declared on a local radio station Jose Ricardo Orozco, governor of the department of Tolima.

The accident took place during a local bullfighting show, a kind of popular festival during which the public descends into the arena to face oxen and small bulls. A whole section of the wooden bleachers on three floors, crowded with spectators, collapsed, throwing dozens of people to the ground, according to spectacular images taken by a drone and recovered by Agence France-Presse.

“More or less thirty people are seriously injured (…) this is a preliminary report, they are still transferring the injured”added Governor Jose Ricardo Orozco.

“We are still waiting to see how many people are under the rubble, we don’t know how many. As you can see in the videos, almost the whole wing was filled with people and it collapsed”Major Luis Fernando Vélez, director of the Civil Protection Department of Tolima, told the same radio station.

A well-established, but dangerous tradition

Another amateur video shows the public trying to escape the debris of wood and sheet metal while a bull continues to prowl the arena.

The accident happened at the Gilberto Charry bullring during the holiday weekend where the San Pedro fiestas, the most popular in the region, are celebrated. “We are going to request an investigation into the facts (…). Solidarity with the families of the victims”Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Twitter – his successor, Gustavo Pedro, elected to lead the country on June 19, will be sworn in on August 7.

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Governor Orozco warned that he was going to ask “the suspension of all these types of festivities”asserting that these events “waiting for life” animals and encourage “their mistreatment”. The day before, several people had been injured by bulls during this same party in Espinal.

Controversial bullfights

New Colombian President Gustavo Petro has added his voice to that of the governor. “I ask town halls to no longer authorize shows involving the death of people or animals”he commented on Twitter, recalling in passing the death of hundreds of people in the collapse of another bullring in the municipality of Sincelejo (north of the country) in 1980.

When he was mayor of Bogota (2012-2015), Gustavo Petro had put an end to bullfights at La Santamaría, the emblematic bullring of the capital. Colombian justice punishes the mistreatment of animals, but practices such as bullfighting and cockfighting still take place as cultural events.

The World with AFP


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